Mikhail Litvyakov – Misha – rushed into the cinema for a National Competition programme, saw me and Viktor Skubey, producer and dear friend from many years of visiting St. Petersburg, came to hug and picked out proudly a 56 page booklet, well illustrated, his memories from the quarter of a century, where he has been heading the festival. Easy reading, full of anecdotes it is, but also mentioning the different moments of crisis that I think every festival with that age has experienced. Misha was director general of the festival from 1988 until 2011, where film director Alexei Uchitel took over as president with Misha as the honorary President, always around full of energy and humour.
It’s pleasant reading – ”they” have all been here: Richard Leacock, Leo Hurwitz, Erwin Leiser, Herz Frank, Volker Schlöndorff, Tonino Guerra, Godfrey Reggio, Kusturica, Agnes Varda, Ulrich Seild and so on – and Leni Riefenstahl, and that created a lot of problems. A quote: … I definitely did not expect the scandal that erupted even before she arrived. In the free newspaper Metro, Oleg Stirzhak’s article ”Triumph of Forgetfulness” appeared, in which he accused the organizers of the festival of forgetting about the Blockade and basically rehabilitating fascism…”
But there are also memories from the time, when the festival had to say goodbye to the requirement that all films had to be submitted on film material, the consequent technical changes in the cinemas, and of course there has been constant fund raising problems.
Russian directors have started their career at the Message to Man festival: Sergey Dvortsevoy and Viktor Kossakovski as the most prominent names. The latter premiered his new film here the other night – review will follow.